Playing sport boosts your chances in the City by improving your teamworking skills

Rugby World Cup winner Josh Lewsey went on to work as a consultant at PwC and a trader at Citigroup
Playing rugby can help to improve your teamwork skills and demonstrate discipline.
A huge opportunity is on its way. News that ITV is bumping some of its major shows in favour of rugby World Cup matches next year is an indication of the chance to create a real legacy for the sport. The potential of our 2003 World Cup win wasn’t fully realised, and this is a second chance to inspire and engage young people to develop a passion for the game.
As an employer, this is particularly exciting. Sport – especially rugby – has the potential to unlock skills that really set a candidate apart. With 733,000 unemployed 16-24 year olds in the UK, and a growing number of graduates looking for jobs, employers need to take a proactive approach to mobilise this talent pool. Rugby can help achieve this.


In the past, the idea that sport can positively impact your skill set was very much anecdotal. But recent research from Sheffield Hallam University found that participation in sport has a direct, positive impact on your career. The study looked at the correlation between graduates who played sport at university and their employability. On average, those who took part in sport at university had a personal income of around £5,000 per year more than those who didn’t. Graduates who were involved in the organisation and management of university sport were also the least likely to encounter a period of unemployment in their career. And for employers, the study revealed that the “soft skills” developed by taking part in sport are as crucial as academic and subject-specific skills and qualifications.
The findings certainly resonate with me, and I’m sure it’s the same for countless others in similar corporate roles. In fact, we have so much conviction in this at CBRE that this year we have become the principal partner of England Rugby’s All Schools Programme. This initiative helps boys and girls across the UK who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to take part in rugby – a sport that builds skills and qualities that are vital in the workplace. I’ve already seen the programme in action, and it’s hugely rewarding to see young people being active and developing skills and qualities that will help them in later life.


As a former rugby player, I know first-hand that the sport gives you confidence, an understanding of teamwork and respect, as well as a focus and discipline that can help you to get ahead.
Sport helps you learn a lot about yourself. It pushes you to your limits, and reveals some of the best aspects of your personality. One story that has really stuck with me is from a junior rugby team. At half time, they were thumping their opposition 65-0, but rather than trying to beat the record of 110-0, the captain decided to swap shirts and help the opposing team in the second half. It gave the losing team a boost, and earned him the respect of his whole squad. For me, this is a great example of a triumph over individual competitiveness, which can be all too common in some corporate environments.


Coming up with a game plan on the pitch requires the same skills as organising a strategy in business. It involves identifying the strengths of your team, recognising where the pressure points are, and motivating the whole group to maximise its potential.


Finally, sport of any kind is a great way of breaking down barriers and increasing diversity. Sport is all-inclusive – it celebrates the participation and achievement of all, and the success of England women’s rugby team this year is a great example of seeing a culture shift towards inclusion. If we can translate this into diversity and inclusion in the property industry and beyond, it can only mean great things for the economy.
Ciaran Bird is UK managing director of CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, and a former professional rugby player.

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